30 May 2008

Fire Up!

Whether they call it that or not, the economy is in a recession, and Puerto Rico's has the look and feel of an untreated dengue-fever victim with a broken leg.

Just soak in the imagery...

Citizens, pundits, offal and Fools (notice the descending order) offer tons of potential solutions, but the Key for Fixing Puerto Rico's Economy is a very simple concept: Reduce the number of government employees.

Nothing new there, right? Hell, I've kicked that old coconut around several times. What else can be said about a bureaucratic tumor that absorbs over 40% of direct and indirect jobs? (Call them what they are: votes.) How can an economy improve when a little over 81% of its total government budget is set to pay salaries and benefits? Let's just hope that the estimated 10-12% of "corruption loss" is in that 81% or otherwise Our government would be running a huge deficit and not getting things done...


Having whacked around the old notion (old because it's been valid for five decades), here's the new twist, the Jenius touch that you have unknowingly been waiting for: Turn it into an economic stimulus program by matching funds for new businesses.

The gist is simple: Dump 50,000 government workers, beginning with "advisors." That takes care of some 18,000-23,000 high-priced contracts and doesn't require any type of severance package. Complete the 50,000 cutdown with "permanent" workers who receive the equivalent of a two-year salary-plus-benefits package as a lump sum. (Easily affordable after chopping the numbnut advisors down to size.) Then, have the government match funds for those ex-employees who want to start a new business.

Sure, a lot of the downsized folks will up and leave the Island. Bye-bye! But by making the next step another government investment in new businesses, We can slash the tumor by 10-20%, save government money (short-term and long-term) and launch--what?--500-800 new businesses in a truly far-reaching method.

Here's the kicker: With that much at stake, how much do you bet that idiotic procedures and general bullpuckeyness to start a new business gets slashed dramatically?

Okay, I'm done for today. Tell The Jellyfish (you know I means da guv) and The Fools to get cracking on this... and make sure they understand I mean "to get cracking," not "to get more crack."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

28 May 2008

Education Quotes

Courtesy of My Wonderful Friend, The Picky Grammar Lady (TPGL, for short), a series of quotes about education:

"A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education." (George Bernard Shaw)

"College isn't the place to go for ideas." (Helen Keller)

"Bachelor's degrees make pretty good placemats if you get 'em laminated." (Jeph Jacques)

"A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students." (John Ciardi)

"Education is a method whereby one acquires a higher grade of prejudices." (Laurence J. Peter)

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." (Mark Twain)

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten." (B.F. Skinner)

Nice selection, with a strong emphasis on the idea that college is not the end-all and be-all We tend to think it is. (Lest you wonder, TPGL graduated summa cum laude.) The problem, blamed here at colleges and universities, is actually shared by schools at all levels and that is based on the silly notion that "learning" is "school-based." In other words, that schools are the centers of learning in Our lives.


At a generous estimate, I think I learned about 20-25% of all I know from being in a classroom. My gut feeling is that 10-15% would be more accurate. If objectively measured, it could actually be less.

I'm far from average in that I read constantly (the average American reads one book a year; I'm averaging 128 a year), skim through 3.7 magazines a month (I go through over 90, most of them biz-tech) and I read 40-50 articles a week off the Web. (Yes, I spend a lot of time alone. Surprised?) The "Great Teacher" for most people is TV; for Me it's a sports channel, with an occasional side of comedy. (TPGL watches no TV and grew up without one. That she lived in Louisiana has no bearing on that fact. I think.)

Concomitant to that silly notion of "school-centric learning" is the sillier notion that educators know what's best for Us to learn. (Hold on...I'm practically wetting Myself with laughter...) Teachers have as much a grasp on education for life as psychologists have on sanity, with both professions coming together like frogs and locusts as plagues upon Our learning potential. Learning for life--the true reason one needs "education"--cannot be in the hands of people who see a restricted time span or thought process limits: Learning happens at all times and in an infinite variety of ways. Saying it belongs in "school years" and in "approved intellectual methods" is condemning the process to needless interruptions and obstacles and thus to widespread failure.

Is it a coincidence that the rise of "psychological" influence in education has turned the whole system into a cesspool of failure? Nuh-uh. It's simply the natural consequence of the unbalanced leading the unqualified.

So, Jenius, who should be in charge of education? Look up at Mark Twain's quote. Each of Us should be in charge of Our own learning, with the knowledge that Our educators will be parents, teachers, neighbors, coaches, clergy, clerks, tellers, and yes, the whole damn village. And with the world being a global village, the whole world teaches each of Us, every day of Our lives

If  We choose to learn.

What the educational system needs to do now is teach Us to understand how We learn and provide Us the tools to determine what Our best learning options are, including the tools to analyze and weigh learning sources. The educational system has been saying that for decades, but it's been doing the opposite, marginalizing the learners in ever-narrowing labels while centering ever-greater influence on the frogs and locusts. They're ravaging Our present and Our future.

Enough is enough.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

P.S.   If you thought I'd end this post with "Let My people go!", you're sadly mistaken.

P.P.S.  From TPGL herself:

TPGL's family did have a TV when she was growing up- it was just black & white and only received one station clearly (TPGL was in high school before she knew that NBC's peacock had a multi-colored tail...).

TPGL's current household doesn't miss TV - although Verizon calls regularly to offer its many cable options. TPGL doesn't miss the endless pharmaceutical commercials for ills she doesn't have, the endless food commercials for processed stuff she doesn't consider "food" and the endless toy commercials for things she doesn't plan to buy for her 8-year-old...

And for the record- TPGL's father was the principal of an elementary school and taught at both elementary and junior high levels in the public school system for 26 years. Education and learning (not just "school") were priorities in the household.

26 May 2008

Happy 8th Birthday, Kaleb!

Over the past year, your defense helped your basketball team win a championship while going undefeated, you drew (and sold) comic books, you became a huge fan of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Albert Einstein, read something like 20 books (and told Me all about them) and blazed through second grade with a straight-A average. But I also noticed you laughed less. Maybe I'm not funny (I doubt that) or maybe you're getting more sophisticated in your sense of humor or maybe it's that you're seeing the world around you in a larger context, and the joyful laugh of 6 has given way to the tight smile of--now--8.

It hasn't been an easy time for you, as the changes you saw last year have become a working pattern. You haven't said anything, but you were hoping the new house would make a difference. It hasn't. If anything, it seems as if the house has taken on a life and weight like that of a surly uncle, squatting through daily activities as a shadow. Sad to say, but there's nothing you can do about that.

You've started "tuning out" as a defense mechanism. It's not the best tool, but it's the only one you have at hand right now and I know that barring a miraculous leap in self-awareness that I never saw and don't expect, you'll simply perfect it and the cause of it will choose to blame Me rather than see and acknowledge who the real culprit is. That's okay, so long as you and I make sure you learn to use other tools equally well.

And that should be easy because you're learning that it is up to you to learn. You are trying to navigate the difficulties created by your home environment by tackling some of them head-on rather than waiting for them to keep pushing you. You see that school isn't the only teacher, that you can and must teach yourself. So now your questions range from history to science, from Spain's hero to Franklin's kite, from a meteor in Siberia to how metals are mined. You ask and expect an answer. I'm happy to say I've never stopped you from asking, no matter how many questions you come up with (and that I've almost never had to say "I don't know.")

This year, you face going to a new school, My expanded working schedule and I foresee--with deep sadness--that your closeness with your cousins will barely be a part of your 9th birthday, as their interests diverge from yours. At that point, you will be alone in a way that pains Me, and no matter what I do, that sense of loneliness will remain. When that happens, I'll do My part and I know you will do yours. I'm confident you will do yours better than I will deal with Mine.

Basketball season returns, We have the summer to swat baseballs and tennis balls, We'll go to the beach, We'll explore new places and new topics and ever so often, maybe when I least expect it, you will laugh. I hope We laugh often together, now and in the coming years. You're a wonderful boy, a wonderful son and may your laughter be generous and kind forevermore.

Happy Birthday, Kaleb. I love you.


23 May 2008

Today's 25

It's not all lemon sour pickles at Chez Jenius. There are some moments of sweetness and light. Here's one, from the ever-growing Zen Habits blog. It's not the best list, but it's better than nothing and you can make it best of all.

25 Ways to Help a Fellow Human Being Today

...(S)trike back against the selfishness and greed of our modern world, and help out a fellow human being today. Not next month, but today.

Helping a fellow human being, while it can be inconvenient, has a few humble advantages:

--It makes you feel better about yourself;
--It connects you with another person, at least for a moment, if not for life;
--It improves the life of another, at least a little;
--It makes the world a better place, one little step at a time;
--And if that kindness is passed on, it can multiply, and multiply.

So take just a few minutes today, and do a kindness for another person. It can be something small, or the start of something big. Ask them to pay it forward. Put a smile on someone’s face.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s an extremely incomplete list, just to get you thinking — I’m sure you can come up with thousands more if you think about it.

1) Smile and be friendly. Sometimes a simple little thing like this can put a smile and warm feeling in someone else’s heart, and make their day a little better. They might then do the same for others.

2) Call a charity to volunteer. You don’t have to go to a soup kitchen today. Just look up the number, make the call, and make an appointment to volunteer sometime in the next month. It can be whatever charity you like. Volunteering is one of the most amazing things you can do.

3) Donate something you don’t use. Or a whole box of somethings. Drop them off at a charity — others can put your clutter to good use.

4) Make a donation. There are lots of ways to donate to charities online, or in your local community. Instead of buying yourself a new gadget or outfit, spend that money in a more positive way.

5) Redirect gifts. Instead of having people give you birthday or Christmas gifts, ask them to donate gifts or money to a certain charity.

6) Stop to help. The next time you see someone pulled over with a flat tire, or somehow in need of help, stop and ask how you can help. Sometimes all they need is a push, or the use of your cell phone.

7) Teach. Take the time to teach someone a skill you know. This could be teaching your grandma to use email, teaching your child to ride a bike, teaching your co-worker a valuable computer skill, teaching your spouse how to clean the darn toilet. OK, that last one doesn’t count.

8) Comfort someone in grief. Often a hug, a helpful hand, a kind word, a listening ear, will go a long way when someone has lost a loved one or suffered some similar loss or tragedy.

9) Help them take action. If someone in grief seems to be lost and doesn’t know what to do, help them do something. It could be making funeral arrangements, it could be making a doctor’s appointment, it could be making phone calls. Don’t do it all yourself — let them take action too, because it helps in the healing process.

10) Buy food for a homeless person. Cash is often a bad idea if it’s going to be used for drugs, but buying a sandwich and chips or something like that is a good gesture. Be respectful and friendly.

11) Lend your ear. Often someone who is sad, depressed, angry, or frustrated just needs someone who will listen. Venting and talking through an issue is a huge help.

12) Help someone on the edge. If someone is suicidal, urge them to get help. If they don’t, call a suicide hotline or doctor yourself to get advice.

13) Help someone get active. A person in your life who wants to get healthy might need a helping hand — offer to go walking or running together, to join a gym together. Once they get started, it can have profound effects.

14) Do a chore. Something small or big, like cleaning up or washing a car or doing the dishes or cutting a lawn.

15) Give a massage. Only when appropriate of course. But a massage can go a long way to making someone feel better.

16) Send a nice email. Just a quick note telling someone how much you appreciate them, or how proud you are of them, or just saying thank you for something they did.

17) Show appreciation, publicly. Praising someone on a blog, in front of coworkers, in front of family, or in some other public way, is a great way to make them feel better about themselves.

18) Donate food. Clean out your cupboard of canned goods, or buy a couple bags of groceries, and donate them to a homeless shelter.

19) Just be there. When someone you know is in need, sometimes it’s just good to be there. Sit with them. Talk. Help out if you can.

20) Be patient. Sometimes people can have difficulty understanding things, or learning to do something right. Learn to be patient with them.

21) Tutor a child. This might be difficult to do today, but often parents can’t afford to hire a tutor for their child in need of help. Call a school and volunteer your tutoring services.

22) Create a care package. Soup, reading material, tea, chocolate … anything you think the person might need or enjoy. Good for someone who is sick or otherwise in need of a pick-me-up.

23) Lend your voice. Often the powerless, the homeless, the neglected in our world need someone to speak up for them. You don’t have to take on that cause by yourself, but join others in signing a petition, speaking up a a council meeting, writing letters, and otherwise making a need heard.

24) Offer to babysit. Sometimes parents need a break. If a friend or other loved one in your life doesn’t get that chance very often, call them and offer to babysit sometime. Set up an appointment. It can make a big difference.

25) Love. Simply finding ways to express your love to others, whether it be your partner, child, other family member, friend, co-worker, or a complete stranger … just express your love. A hug, a kind word, spending time, showing little kindnesses, being friendly … it all matters more than you know.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

21 May 2008

Ignore This Too

There's a tendency We have in Puerto Rico to very selectively ignore issues that are eating Us alive. Some examples:

--Our status vis-á-vis the U.S: The only ones who really focus on this issue are the Fools. However, they focus on it so badly and to such a laughable degree of idiocy that We would be better off if they simply dropped the matter altogether.

--Our deteriorating infrastructure: From schools to roads to public facilities, We're going to hell in a (broken) handbasket. The efforts We make are largely patchwork: What We need is wholesale redevelopment, beginning with communications.

--A monolithic economy: From a Third World-type banking system (one huge central bank and wanna-bes as satellites) to an "all eggs in the pharmaceutical (broken) basket," Our economy has the trappings of a poker game played with ice cubes as chips: It's just a matter of time before the game is all wet...then ends with everyone broke.

--A rising tide of tech-savvy youth: Why is this bad? We have nothing to offer them to keep them involved with Us. We bore them with inadequate resources at school, We oversell them in all media while underselling their talents and We curtail their entrepreneurial spirit with enough red tape to choke a whale. When they start leaving--a trickle in 2010, a flood by 2015--you'll wake up in tardy dismay.

--A political system so warped it actually represents outside interests better than Our interests. Who is "outside"? Check where the money trail leads to. Here's a hint: It doesn't stay in Puerto Rico.

Ignorance is bliss. No wonder We're so happy as a people. At least most of Us are. The minority that sees and feels these issues cannot ever rest easy, but toss restlessly wondering how We came to lay in this (broken) bed.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 May 2008

Employers "Find" Puerto Rico


That's the most this headlined article from The Atlanta Constitution deserves. Here are the chucklers:

"Puerto Rico is part of the United States, so its residents are American citizens."  Yes, let's explain to them good ol' boys what Puerto Rico is, shan't We? And while We're at it, can We also explain why nobody gives a tinker's damn?

"...the latest trend includes a greater variety of industries, such as hotels and resorts, hospitals, and meat-processing operations."  Oh, yeah, definitely a brain drain issue We should all be worried about, considering that "hospitals" means "nurses" and everything else is "maintenance and factory floor."

"Cargill Meat Solutions, a pork processor in Beardstown Ill., began recruiting workers from Puerto Rico last year. They now have dozens of workers from the island, according to various news reports."  Yeah, don't ask what's in your sausage... or who's making them.

About the Aspen Skiing Company recruitment: "About 20 Puerto Rican men and women were recruited to work as maids, maintenance workers, and other hotel jobs."  I rest My "brain drain" case...

"The unemployment rate on the island is about 10 percent, twice as high as on the U.S. mainland, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."  Oh, please. Lies, damn lies and statistics, people, and unemployment statistics take the cowcake. Real unemployment in Puerto Rico is not 10%, or even a hideous 20%: It's closer to 25% and if you chuck in welfare tapeworms and Fools it could be as high as 35%. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Kiss My black ass. The numbers you purport to sling around are bogus, and when it comes to Puerto Rico, they would need God's blessing to rise to bogus. And Atlanta Constitution, you're so far out to sea on this issue that you just hit land and called it "The New World." Employers didn't "find" Puerto Rico: We found them. Even your own article tells the redneck region how it happens: "The effort started through a Meadowbrook employee in the human resources department from Puerto Rico who helped the company make contacts through her family on the island."

So wise up, Atlanta (Morning) Constitution(al): Employers haven't "found" Puerto Rico since Jesse Fewkes wrote about Our people in the early 1900s. We go to where they--the employers--are and We make the connections. Stop acting like We're some secret stash of menial labor and that your article is some sort of "news" item. Just because you can't hack it anymore or have a history of "whitey-first" superciliousness doesn't mean you can come into My bailiwick and act all snooty and stupid.

Although I'm willing to bet gold chunks to Dixie grits that that's the best you can do. And I hate grits.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


16 May 2008

Dis Incentives

Local business leaders tell Me that what We're cooking in terms of a new Incentives Law is going to make Puerto Rico the most-attractive business spot in the world. They talk about tax-free this and subsidy-based that and not once have I heard any of them tackle the single most important point in the whole discussion:

Why would Uncle Sam allow it?

I'm talking about the Uncle Sam who's facing a recession and a lame president with the leadership skills and moral compass of roadkill. I'm talking about the Uncle Sam who sees his business leadership base eroding faster than a sand castle in a Katrina-ravaged levee. I'm talking about the same Uncle Sam who didn't give a rat's ass about corporate profits under Treasury Section 936 when it came time to choose between "votes" and "Puerto Rico."

What makes these business and industry leaders think that Puerto Rico is going to be able to craft a set of incentives that leave Singapore, Ireland and the other current investment hotspots in Our dust without having the U.S. of part of A. either (a) Rejecting it under federal statutes; (b) Rejecting it under established commercial statutes or (c) Simply slapping it down at the congressional level and doing it themselves?

I'd call these leaders naive if it weren't for the fact that they aren't: They are ignoring the point because if they stop to think about it, We'd have no apparent solution to Our crisis. And delusion is better than despair.

So the words fly, the banalities are uttered and the 800-pound moose in the breakfast nook snuffles all over the doughnuts and We pretend it's the morning breeze. Should We continue to develop new ideas and potential solutions? Of course. Should We do it in a vacuum, in a bubble of Our limited self-interest that refuses to acknowledge the real world?

No. That's what got Us here in the first place.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

14 May 2008

Government (Non)Employees

A couple of things that are bothering Me:

---Despite a binding vote, the local legislature--Fool's Paradise--has moved with the blazing speed of snail poo on the issue of unicamerality. The real issue of that vote, early in the current governor's useless term, was not that We wanted to be like Nebraska, but that We wanted a reduction in the number of idiots running amok. As such, the Fools have no incentive  to work on this, Our collective will seldom coalesces for anything other than voting on "talent" shows and the whole exercise becomes one that defines futility.

Here's an idea: Let's shelve the whole unicameral issue and have the Jellyfish governor and the Fool's Paradise request an across-the-board 20% reduction in the number of government employees. THAT will get attention, start a useless debate (useless because them firings ain't gonna happen) and consume another four years of non-action.

---Speaking of government employees, Let's cancel the unions they have. Uh-huh, I said cancel. As in eliminate, terminate and expunge. Why are employees who can't be fired unless they are butt-buddies with another convict in their eighth month in jail "protected" by unions? The government gives these essentially underachieving dolts a level of protection that practically carries their inertia from Day One to Pension, so what are unions doing in the mix? Here's what: Creating another level of widespread graft.

That's it. They have no other function. None. It's all about graft. Unions create a political barrier that is used to extort money and privileges, by politicians, government officials and union leadership. If you think The Jenius is sounding neo-con loony, here's a question: How many judicial cases have local government unions won in defense of their positions?

Here's the answer: None since the 1970s, when the last Employee Protection Act laws were implemented. Coincidence? Hell no. Just the objective (or at least, judicial) confirmation that the local government union is a fiction without a shred of utility... except for quasi-legal and even illegal purposes.

Get rid of the unions and let government employees spend their soft-earned money on other wastes of time and money. Like political campaigns.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

12 May 2008

Damning Lies

According to a National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse Center study, done in 2005, prescription drugs cause more deaths than a whole slew of other causes:  

Cause of Death                                 Annual Death Toll 2005
Prescription Drugs                                       32,000
Suicide                                                            30,622
Car Accidents                                                26,347
Firearms                                                        29,000
Homicide                                                        20,308
Sexual Behavior                                            20,000
HIV/AIDS                                                     17,011
Illegal Drugs                                                  17,000
Anti-Inflammatory                                         7,600
Terrorism                                                            310

I looove the round numbers, the idea that "Sexual Behavior" is a top cause and did you notice where "Terrorism" ranks? Seems there's more American deaths in Iraq "preventing" terrorism and waaay more Iraqi killed by "protection" efforts than Americans killed by prescription drugs and firearms combined.

Okay, where's the Puerto Rico angle, Jenius? Simple: We made most of those prescription drugs.
So, technically, We're accessories to these deaths, right? And see that "Firearms" number? If I remember correctly, We contributed about 785 of those deaths that year. "Suicide"? We put up about 520 of those. "Accidents"? Close to 730.

"AIDS"? About 230. "Illegal drugs?" Anywhere from 240 to 1,600, depending on whether you count just identified illegal drug overdoses or illegal drug-related deaths, like drive-bys and turf wars. "Anti-Inflammatory"? Don't know. "Sexual Behavior"? Who knows? And under "Terrorism," I wonder if they count the F.B.I. killing a bomb-maimed (his own fault) local criminal fugitive?

Now considering that We're one of 54 States and Territories comprising roughly 1.4% of the U.S. of part of A.'s population, We seem to be on the high end of contributing dead people. (You can ignore My "prescription drug deaths accessory" quip since you already have.) And because the range goes from lies to damn lies to statistics, you'd be wrong, because the study quoted above didn't include Puerto Rico. I did, for comparison purposes.

But in terms of the dead in aforementioned Iraq, We've lost 35 of Our own and counting, 35 out of over 4,077...and counting.

Are We contributing "Our fair share" to the current Iraq war? Nobody is. There is no "fair share." There's only the pain of lies leading to the pain of death.

Lies, damn lies, statistics... and murderous moron lies.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 May 2008

Cloud Humans

Under what circumstances would a cyborgian "human-cloud computing society" emerge?

The general thrust of that question has a few notions implied:

(1) That cloud computing will grow pervasive, if it hasn't already done so.

(2) That humans would want to "meld" with that capacity.

(3) That the "melding" would be possible for long-term interaction.

The basis of My question is that cloud computing is not so much about technology as it is about the services and benefits that technology provides. Because it is based on the idea of gain rather than an idea of "tools", it would seem natural to see people evolving towards wanting to have those benefits all the time.

(Yes, I'm headed into science fiction territory. Not the first time, you know.)

Here's My checklist:

--A society that sees benefits more than technology, i.e., isn't focused on "the newest gadget," but rather on "what's in it for Me."

--A society that is restricted in some way, either geographically, economically or less likely, politically. (Political restrictions usually limit technology severely.)

--High population density leading to increased social interactions and higher levels of competition.

--A society with a sense of "looseness" or--better term--an indifference to rigidity in terms of what's acceptable. Open-minded.

--Economic incentives based on either marginal income, limited opportunities and/or an impetus to get ahead/get out.

Based on that, one could say that My proposed "human-cloud" hybrid would emerge in big cities that serve as technology, economic and social hubs. Think mega-cities such as New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, or maybe San Francisco what with Silicon Valley tech-heads and venture capital running loose. But there's another potential incubator: Islands. Singapore comes to mind.

And Puerto Rico.

Before you scoff: Thousands of marginalized youths, mostly competitive males, with access to technology, a burning desire to get ahead to get out and a very "open" mind based more on need and greed than on rationale. Access to the deep pool of information and leverage offered by the cloud would be seen as a godsend, if not a basic right.

How many of them would it take--walking human-cloud go-getters hooked into noteworthy levels of success--before the fringe trend starts converting more mainstream folks into hybrids?

Assuming the human-cloud hybrid is possible, of course. And you know it is possible.

All it takes is the desire to move from clod to... cloud.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 May 2008

Them, Me and Not Us

Another Thank You to Janine Mendes-Franco for picking up a Jenius post again. Someday, I have to meet her.

They gather just outside the fence that separates the Presbyterian church from the school area. Their ages range from late-40s/early 50s to mid-70s. They greet each other lightly, casually and after routine preliminaries, they begin their conversation. And lord love a duck are they a banal bunch.

The heat. Or the rain. Or yesterday's heat/rain. The price of gas. One or two headlines from a local daily, most often some hideous crime. The governor and how useless he is. The legislature and how useless some of them (usually the governor's men and women) are. Taxes. And whatever happened years ago to one of them that has a passing connection to today's insipidness.

They used to greet Me. They don't bother anymore, for I never answered. Now they refuse to acknowledge My presence, which serves Us all fine. For almost two years, their group hasn't varied very much, the parents and grandparents of My son's classmates. They know I always show up with something to read or jabbering away on My cell phone. I sit near them because there is no space far from them. I wish they'd dry up and blow away. They probably wish Me the same or worse.

My disgust with them is based on the bright children they come to pick up. Fun-loving, sweet kids who ask Me if it's My birthday every day (as I claim) or if My hat was in a movie (as I also claim.) They know I'm kidding. The way I see it, school's out! Time to have fun! But the adults around Me are ass-deep in their own ruts, incapable of a new thought, a new idea or a new way of seeing things. They see Me (most likely) as an alien, a clown, a bad influence and/or someone who's clear proof that not everyone who is a parent should be.

Maybe I'm making too much of these brief encounters, these half-hours of mid-afternoon avoidance We engage in. But I bet I'm right, for after all, their kids and grandkids ask Me if I read so much because I'm in college (because "they" say reading is only for those in school, perhaps?), if I show up early because I lost My job (self-employed professionals only exist in movies, right?) and if My son likes being with Me (I kid you not, pun intended.)

Now you tell Me: Is that the kind of question a kid thinks up to ask an adult all by himself?

I don't think so either. "They," the rut dwellers, can't figure Me out. Maybe I haven't nailed them either. But one thing We're sure of: We don't give a damn for each other.

And yet, that probably means We lose more than We might gain, right?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 May 2008

THE Technology for Puerto Rico

What technology--applied wholesale to Puerto Rico--would have the greatest positive impact?

I asked that question (or one very much like it) in My lunch with Gabriel Pagán, of I Can't Spell fame. In any case, the question posed above is the one I'll answer.

My first ideas on this were that the technology in question would have to cover three basic characteristics:

1) User-friendly: Think "cell phone" versus "computer."

2) Economical: Same example.

3) Capable of "trendiness." Harder to define, but the same example applies. Cell phones come out more often with a variety of options and personalizations, much more so than a computer.

That's when I noticed (as you have) that what We're looking for here is "the new cell phone." It's debatable if the cell phone has had a great positive impact, but an opponent to them would have a very hard time arguing against the value of their ubiquitous presence.

I gave this more thought than I estimated I would. In fact, I may have spent more time with this question than with practically anything else I've posted as The Jenius. (Make of that what you will.) I even confirmed the definition of technology to make sure I would leave no stone unturned.

Those of you familiar with My writings and/or personality would assume I went down a few strange side-streets... and I did. And through it all, I kept coming back to one concept:

Accelerated learning.

You can pick your jaw off the desk now. I mean it: Accelerated learning. Here's why.

---Puerto Rico has a stronger tendency to short-term thinking than long-term. Now that's certainly a human trait, but We generally evince it to a higher degree than most. Accelerated learning, if it hits the tripartite sweet spot noted above, would radically alter Our society. The bad side of short-term thinking is opportunism, which We have in spades and nearly idolize as a lifestyle. That's where accelerated learning makes its largest impact: It makes (can make) opportunism an incentive to learn, instead of an incentive to "slide by." The more you know--or the more you can learn--the more you can take advantage of the circumstances.

---Handled by business, it would take the process of education out of the government's hands, also reducing Our witless over-reliance on that Fool's Paradise. Accelerated learning would move education from "class" to "individual," from "sub-standard" to "results-based" and from "propaganda" to "empowerment." How else would it be successful, if it didn't tailor the service and product to Me, gave Me My money's worth and made Me feel better about who I am and what I can do? The positive benefits of that kind of impact are almost staggering to behold.

---And in the ideal world where accelerated learning comes to be as I envision, the simple truth of "The more you learn, the more you can learn" could lift Us to seek Our true place on the world stage, beyond a pretty face wearing a sash, a pair of hips swiveling on a stage or a sweaty hand raised in victory. A place on the world stage where the mind matters, where thoughts make a fundamental difference and Our talents as a People--all Our talents, not just those to entertain--are made manifest.

Okay, Gabriel, MC Don Dees, Soldier and anyone else who wants to jump in: What's your answer? I'm sure they'll be well worth the effort.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 May 2008

Time for CeaseFire

The local statistic is staggering: Puerto Rico has more murders per 100,000 residents than any State in the U.S. of part of A. 

Spanning the past 15 years, Puerto Rico's murder rate looks more like guerrilla warfare or a putative civil war than just a "crime statistic." The reason it hasn't galvanized a rush to action is because most of the dead are gang members related to the illegal drug trade. They come from the fringes of mainstream society and thus, illogically, their deaths are ignored.

The illogic stems from the incompatibility between the indifference to their deaths as opposed to the vivid reality of their "unperceived" existence. The correlation between illegal drugs and overall crime is beyond discussion and a short drive down any residential street in Puerto Rico shows the reality of that connection: Our houses look like cages. Metalwork all around a house, no matter how elaborate, makes cages.

Current efforts to reduce the murder rate are best described as "lip service," where the lips are frequently applied to some ass, whether it's Uncle Sam's, a Fool's or a media member. And yet, since 1995, the City of Chicago has implemented a successful program called CeaseFire that has dramatically reduced the murder rate amongst gang members. The overall benefits to the communities--and thus the City--are quite likely impossible to define, but are indisputably positive.

The five pillars of CeaseFire are: 

--Street-level outreach: Street-smart leaders, often ex-gang members, being vocal and visible leaders for options beyond gang life and death.

--Public education: Not just schools, but communities posting and conveying the messages of change, growth, responsibility and non-violence.

--Community mobilization: Not just the gang-ridden communities, but all communities, coming together to discover "their problem" is "My problem" and "their future" is "Our future."

--Faith leader involvement: Spiritual guidance can often teach what otherwise would never be learned. Churches have held a healing role throughout history, but must be proactive to make a program like CeaseFire work well.

--Police participation: The gang member's enemy is not the policeman, but the idea that a gang is the best way to thrive. It is the police force, as part of the justice system, that has first contact with gangs. It is through them that the first steps for change are made.

How difficult would it be to adapt the CeaseFire program platform to Puerto Rico? After all, there are plenty of Puerto Rican gang members and gangs in Chicago; it's not like We'd be importing more culture shock. And as a response to the cynics who say "You want Us to rely on Our police, Our schools, Our clergy and Our government to get this done?" I say "Of course. We don't need to change everything at once. One gang at a time can be managed by a few good people. And if you don't think We have at least a few good people in all these institutions, then you're no longer a cynic: You're defeated."

The rest of Us, are not defeated. But We have to put up a better effort.

The Jenius Has Spoken.